How to Read to Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers

a chubby baby sits on a gray cushion with a board book open in his hands
Having one preschooler rolling around on the floor, a toddler beside me trying to take the book from me, and a newborn son in my arms, my day started out more like a juggling act than read-aloud time.

I no longer have to guess whether or not what seemed like half-hearted attempts at planting tender reading seeds would flourish and bloom because today all of my sons are voracious readers.

Our reading journey has had many ups and downs, but nurturing a love of reading can be traced back to how I approached books while my sons were babies, toddlers, and preschoolers

1. Plan Several Periods of Daily Read-aloud Time

I thrive on schedule, but when a baby or toddler has a sleepless night, needs a diaper change, or has an upset stomach, it’s hard to stick with consistent reading times.

Instead of being stressed that I didn’t meet my read-aloud time, I let go of what I couldn’t control and planned for several short periods of read aloud time throughout the day.

How to Read to Babies, Toddlers, and PreschoolersReading to my sons right before nap time was a good choice because they were quiet, relaxed, and ready for me to show them the pictures and talk about the book.

2. Give Them Their Own Books

Many times my middle son, my toddler, would want to take the book away from me instead of sitting beside me.

If it was a board book, I would let him have it as he walked off.

Instead of thinking of read-aloud time as a power struggle, I wanted him to associate read-aloud time with pleasure.

From that experience, I learned too that having more than one of the same book was key to satisfying their desire to be involved by holding their own book.

Knowing that all my children were very young, I knew that I was going to get several years of use out of having multiple copies of the same book.

3. Provide Interactive Books

I looked for books that had few words and lots of pictures. They loved books that made sounds like The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle that makes a quiet chirping sound of a cricket.

Board books that had textures were also favorites because they could pet an animal or feel a unique sensation by stroking the pages.

4. Use Repetition to Reinforce Pre-reading Skills

My oldest son wanted me to read Harold and the Purple Crayon over and over again when he was a preschooler. I wanted to read Dr. Seuss books for their rhyming value.

Reading books that were his favorites and books I wanted to read to him, encouraged him to read and recognize sight words early.

Though it seemed like I read the same book thousands of time when he wasn’t listening, little did I realize the value of repetition and rhyming words. Both repetition and rhyming laid the foundation for teaching my preschooler word families when he learned to read. Trusting my mommy instincts played a huge role too.

5. Read Chapter Books Like Winnie-the-Pooh

Blissfully ignorant about what was age appropriate, I pushed the bounds of what formal educators might have thought was developmentally inappropriate. I read novels like Winnie-the-Pooh to my preschoolers. Of course I set rules about not tearing pages and coming closer to me to view the pictures in the book. 

Trusting my gut, I hooked my sons on reading the entire Winnie-the-Pooh series as my boys grew older.

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Independent Young Men Who Love to Read

I never dreamed the time would come when I would stop reading to them, but it did.

My then preschooler has now moved to New York to start his own life and career, but not without taking a suitcase full of books. Tearfully, I thought back to our moments of reading Winnie-the-Pooh. My toddler has just graduated high school and prefers to read on his iPad as my charge card testifies to another book purchase. My infant is now a teenager who loves reading about science, comedy. and sports.

Whether you are a mommy to be or have infants, toddlers, and preschoolers right now, don’t neglect time spent reading to them. Out of all the jobs I have had through the years none of them were as important as being a reading mommy.

About the Author

Tina RobertsonTina Robertson celebrated the graduation of Mr. Senior in 2013 and Mr. Awesome in 2015. Because of her love for new homeschoolers, she mentors moms through her unique program called New Bee Homeschoolers. She loves all homeschoolers, though, as she shares her free 7 Step Curriculum Planner, unit studies, lapbooks and homeschooling how tos. She can't sing, dance, or craft, but she counts organizing as a hobby. She is still in the homeschool trenches blogging at Tina's Dynamic Homeschool Plus.